New York nonprofits receive political activity guidance

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Letitia James

FILE- In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, New York State Attorney General Letitia James takes a question at a news conference in New York. During a Tuesday, Sept. 29 media conference call on an initiative, dubbed “Operation Corrupt Collector,” James offered frank advice to older people who are often seen as easy marks for dubious debt collectors. “Senior citizens, as I always say, they’ve earned the right to hang up and to be rude,” James said. “Most seniors are not rude, but when it comes to individuals engaging in illegal conduct, they should hang up and report the collector to the FTC immediately.” (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK (WWTI) — Non profit organizations across the state are being advised on political activity restrictions ahead of the November 3rd election.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is clarifying and reminding political activities nonprofits may or may not engage in, as charitable organizations that receive a tax exemption pursuant to section 501(c)(3) are restricted to engaging in certain forms of these activities.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, violations to laws placed on these organizations can lead to denial or revocation of tax-exempt status by the IRS, loss of exemption from New York State income, sales and use taxes and enforcement of actions by the NY AG.

“We must ensure the integrity of the election in November, which means ensuring everyone is abiding by the rules on election activities,” said Attorney General James. “The nonpartisanship of nonprofits ensures that these groups can operate transparently and with the trust of the public.”

According to the Office of the Attorney General, 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from the following:

  • Making or soliciting contributions for, on behalf of, or against any candidate for public office or to a political party, including national, state or local candidates                         
  • Endorsing or opposing a particular candidate or political party
  • Making statements in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate or a political party, including oral, recorded or written statements
  • Using the organization’s resources, including office space, telephones, internet account, printers, employee time, to engage in political campaign activity
  • Providing funds from a 501(c)(3) organization to a 501(c)(4) organization which engages in political activity without controls to assure that the funds are used solely for 501(c)(3) exempt activities

However, 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to engage in the following:

  • Distribution or posting of non-partisan voter guides that may include links to other nonpartisan educational sites or that provide information to the public about the positions taken by elected officials or candidates in a wide range of issues, without taking a position on their positions;
  • Voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives that encourage people to register and/or vote without reference to any political party or candidate;
  • Hosting candidate forums or debates or inviting a candidate to an organization’s event

Full, detailed guidance can be found on the Office of the Attorney General’s website.

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